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article imageOp-Ed: Hungary’s ‘Trianon Trauma’ Lingers On

By Christopher Szabo     Jun 4, 2009 in Politics
The fourth of June is not only the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It was also 89 years ago that Hungary was partitioned.
The war-weary, occupied country was forced to sign a “peace treaty” at the Grand Trianon palace at Versailles, without the right to make representations. Members of the government were allowed a protest, but the treaty was there ready for them to sign. The old medieval Kingdom of Hungary, second in size only to France, lost two-thirds of its land and a third of it’s ethnic Hungarian population, something Hungarians — or their neighbours — haven't been able to get to get over yet.
The dictated treaty is still referred to as the “Trianon Trauma,” and remains a source of pain to Hungarians in general as well as a cause of friction between Hungary and its neighbouring countries.
The current crises in Iraq and the Middle East have much in common with Hungary’s Trianon complex. The causes of many current and many more past conflicts can be traced back to the decisions made by the Entente Powers, the colonial powers of the time.
Central Europe, Balkan and Mideast Crisis Linked
For example, the British at first promised the Arabs and T.E. Lawrence (“Of Arabia”) that the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant and modern Iraq would form a great new Arabia independent of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. But near the end of the war a heartbroken Lawrence had to tell his Arab allies that France and Britain were to partition Arab land. The borders drawn between brother and brother remain today as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and the other Arab nations. In the case of Iraq, France only agreed to the border once oil concessions were granted in Mosul, in Kurdistan (northern Iraq, if your prefer.)
Having won the First World War, the Allies were in a vengeful mood, except for the American president, Woodrow Wilson, who wanted to create a peace-loving, democratic new Europe. Sadly, Wilson’s idealism was not matched by either knowledge of Europe or by pragmatism, so the vengeful spirit of France’s President Georges Clemenceau won out over idealism.
Racism Played a Part
But even Wilson wanted an “ethnical” Europe. An article on FigyelőNet (ObserverNet) quoted historian Miklós Zeidler’s view that among the issues that caused the 1000 year-old kingdom’s demise included a strong dose of anti-Hungarian propaganda. While the historian does not state openly that it was racist, the views expressed would be classed as such today.
The Successor States of the kingdom, namely, Czechoslovakia, Greater Rumania and Yugoslavia, argued that Hungarians were ”barbarians” who, despite 1,000 years in Europe, had failed to absorb Western civilisation. Thomas Masaryk, who later become one of the leaders of Czechoslovakia, wrote, aiming at the Asiatic roots of Hungarians:
Nothing could be more repugnant and disgusting than the megalomania of such a small nation than the mongol- descended Hungarians.
And the Secretary to the British Delegation to Versailles after the War, Harold Nicholson, wrote quite candidly in his book, Peacemaking:
My attitude towards Austria was a rather saddened reflection as to what would remain of her when the New Europe had once been created. I did not regard her as a living entity: I thought of her only as a pathetic relic. My feelings towards Hungary were less detached. I confess that I regarded, and still regard, that Turanian tribe with acute distaste. Like their cousins the Turks, they had destroyed much and created nothing.
As to ”tribe,” Hungary had converted from tribes to counties and a kingdom in the year 1,000 A.D., yet historians to this day speak of ”Hungarian tribes” as late as 1780!
And ”Turanians?” In the pseudo-scientific thinking of the time, it was believed there was an "Indo-German Race," that is the whites, or Caucasian, which was supposed to include the Germanic, the Romance and the Slavic-speaking peoples, the "Turanian" race, which was supposed to be "yellow," or Mongoloid, and was seen as including the Mongols and Japanese proper, as well as the Turks, Hungarians, and Finns, and there were the so-called "savage races" which referred to the blacks. Needless to say, this was a neat way of cutting the Hungarians (and the Turks) out of the "civilised white race”.
It should be added that the term “Mongoloid” at the time referred to someone with Down’s Syndrome, and was hardly a compliment. Further, the idea was advanced that “white” peoples like the Rumanians and Slavs should not live under “yellow barbarians” like the Hungarians.
This race-minded attitude, combined with ignorance and arrogance on the part of the Allied Powers, led to the failure of their postwar model. Instead of creating a world "safe for democracy," they created an unstable Europe that was "safe" first for Hitler and then for Stalin. The road to hell seems be paved indeed with both good intentions and hatred, like that of the French leader.
Tragically, ethnic Hungarians are still baited by majority populations in places like Rumania as being: “Savage barbarians who should go back to Asia, where you belong.” One wonders what hearing this from a teacher does to the development of a child.
Hungarians Eschewed Terrorism
Perhaps Hungarians can take some pride in the fact that despite losing far more land than the Irish in 1921, or almost as much as the Palestinians in 1948 and then 1967, no Hungarian has ever turned to terrorism, whereas these peoples did so immediately. Still, refraining from terrorism hasn’t solved the problem of the “Trianon Trauma” nor the racist epithets aimed at Hungarians in minority status.
It seems that Shakespeare’s dictum is still true: "The evil men do lives on after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." Perhaps one day it won’t be.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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